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Stepwise changes

With a bit of forward planning and positive communication, making small changes to your canteen menu can be a big success!

Spring is here and it’s a good time to think about making some heart-healthy changes to your menu. We know it can seem a bit daunting, so here are some ideas to help you make simple and effective changes for the better.

Build a picture

It’s important to take a look at what you sell before making changes.

  • What does the current menu have on it?
  • Are there gaps in the types of foods served?
  • Are there too many options of the same kinds of food?

The number of items on your menu is only one part of the picture. Sales data can tell you what items are selling well and which ones aren’t. If you have a really popular item that is unhealthy, think about changes you can make to it, like reducing salt and sugar content, rather than removing it completely.

If you know what’s selling well, don’t make assumptions about why. Survey the students and staff that buy their lunches. Ask what they choose and why. They may be making decisions based on value for money, lack of other choices, or flavour preferences. Their motivation will give you a better idea about what changes are likely to be successful.

Seek customer feedback

One way to get feedback on changes to make use of taste testers or samples.

Hand out small samples of items you’d like to add to the menu, to get feedback about what is liked and what might need modification. It’s also a great way to get customers excited about a new food that they might not normally try (see our blog about how to name food items to make them more appealing).

Getting feedback from customers about what they would prefer to see will save time and money. It might be a case of asking “Which flavour of sushi would you buy out of chicken or tuna?” or “Would you rather have a bean salad option or a leafy salad option?”

See our tool for surveying students 

Making stepwise changes

When you do make changes, it can be easier to bring them in gradually.

How to make changes that make existing menu items healthier

You can make small adjustments over time to make existing options healthier.

  • Ninja veggies are the ones that sneak in without kids even realising it (like grating carrot into the bolognese sauce).
  • If you have burgers, filled rolls or sandwiches, moving to wholemeal breads is a great change.
  • If you offer a sweet baked treat, take a look at the resource below. Improving these options can be as simple as reducing the portion size or adding fruit.

See a muffin makeover

We also have tips on how to modify existing recipes to make them healthier here

Making recipes healthier

Removing unhealthy items from the menu

Sales data comes in handy when it comes to changing what’s on offer.

  • Some of your unhealthy choices might not be selling that well and can be removed without anyone noticing.
  • If you’re introducing new and exciting, healthier options, it will be easier to remove some old choices from the menu.
  • Offering a new item as the special of the week is a great way to introduce something new. You can give it an introductory special price to get people buying it.
  • The school newsletter, website, Facebook page and daily notices are a great way to advertise and get customers excited about changes.
  • You might also think of one-off promotions like a combo deal or loyalty card for healthy items; e.g. buy 10 sushi, get one free.

With a bit of forward planning and positive communication, making small changes can be a big success!